Taking on the Tour

Richard Virenque in the 2003 Tour de France

The Tour de France is now in full swing. Will Lance win again in this, his final hurrah? Probably. (Especially judging by the way he cruised past Jan Ullrich in the prologue, although the previous day, Ullrich had taken a detour through the rear window of his team car so it’s amazing Ullrich was even racing.)

A few days ahead of the Tour, and riding the same 3,584 km route in the same three weeks, are two remarkable men. The first is Mick Ives a 65-year old from Coventry who is attempting to be the first OAP to complete the course in the same number of days as the race itself. Mick is riding in aid of Cancer Research UK and you can keep track of his progress online.

The second man is Geoff Thomas, a former professional footballer with Crystal Palace (but don’t hold it against him). Geoff was recently diagnosed with leukaemia. Following a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy he has since recovered fully. Geoff was never much of cyclist before his illness but read Lance Armstrong’s astonishing autobiography during his recovery and was inspired to undertake this feat in aid of Leukaemia Research. Geoff, too, is keeping an online diary of his ride.

It’s hard to over state the enormity of the task these two guys are undertaking. I know what it’s like to suffer up an Alpine ascent – I’ve ridden a few of the famous Tour climbs; I hold the Col de Joux Plane particularly dear. To ride for 8 hours a day (probably more in the mountains) for three weeks is not something I would relish. I can imagine waking up exhausted, halfway through the second week, knowing I’ve got another gruelling day climbing through the heat and rarified air of the Pyrenees. To give you an example of the preparation required, here’s choice quote from Mick Ives’s site:

Mick is keen not to over do the training before the Tour ride, so as not to be tired before he has even started, and has only been doing the odd 6/7hr ride a couple of days a week before Lunch on top of his normal traning programme.

A seven hour ride before lunch! A couple of days a week? Good luck to them both. This talk of mountains and cycling only serves to rub in how gutted I am not to be going on my annual pilgrimage to Morzine this year. I’ve got SxSW to thank for that (I had to take holiday to go), so at least the biking was sacrificed for a worthwhile cause.

cover to the Art and Science of Web Design.

And talking of cyclists, Jeff Veen’s book the Art and Science of Web Design is five years old. I remember buying the book at the time, partly to see what the man had to say for himself, and partly to lend to people intending to create a website.

The aspects of the book that made it stand out at the time still hold up to scrutiny: the importance of information architecture and usability, of separating content from presentation. There are some implementation details – which I remember seeming out of place at the time – that have dated badly, and a specific chapter on handling different browsers would seem out of place nowadays. That said, it’s a credit to Jeff how much of this book remains relevant; it’s also a credit to the Web Standards movement how much of this book is no longer relevant.

And seeing as the last person I lent the book to didn’t return it, I’m grateful that Jeff has made the original PDF proof available as a 3.4 Mb download.